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How to approach learning about beer?

 
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Capn Jimbo
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2014 6:35 am    Post subject: How to approach learning about beer? Reply with quote

All good spirits, wines and beer have identifiable styles...


My question to the Bearmeister: I developed a combination of examining rum both by its historical development and the styles as they appeared. What pray tell, do you feel might be a good way to learn about and appreciate beer?

What are the basic styles? What would be a good order to explore them? Are there any good reference beers for each style? You know the drill...

Thanks...
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bearmark
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 14, 2014 12:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The definitive work on beer styles is the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), but that can be a bit overwhelming. There are a few styles that would be good to start with in order to provide a base from which to branch out. Here are some basic styles and my recommendations for an introduction:
  • Lager - thin, pale, sparkly with a mild bitter finish (e.g. Stella Artois or Yuengling Traditional Lager)
  • Pale Ale - light color, mild carbonation, aromatic with a bitter finish (e.g. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale)
  • Porter - medium body, dark color, mild sweetness and roasted malt flavor (e.g. Anchor Porter or Founders Porter)
  • Stout - heavy body, dark color, mild sweetness, notes of chocolate and/or coffee with roasted malt finish (e.g. Guiness Draught or Deschutes Obsidian Stout)

All of these suggestions are in broad distribution and should be readily available in most areas. These are not your typical mainstream offerings, with the exception of Guiness, and that's intentional... after all, this is about exploring craft beer. From here, we can further explore the variations within each style.
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Rum References: Flor de Caña 18 (Demeraran), The Scarlet Ibis (Trinidadian), R.L. Seale 10 (Barbadian), Appleton Extra (Jamaican), Ron Abuelo 12 (Cuban), Barbancourt 5-Star (Agricole)
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Capn Jimbo
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 15, 2014 12:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We're in...


Sue Sea and I both love beers (I actually purchased a home beer system with the idea of making a stout for Sue Sea). We're both very appreciative of your efforts and suggestions.

Total Wine, here we come...
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Capn Jimbo
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 20, 2014 1:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Seat backs up and prepare for landing...


A trip to Total W&S acquired:

The Stella Artois, the Dale's Pale Ale, Samuel Smith Imperial Stout (we know Guinness very well, and the Deschutes wasn't availble) and last, the Founder's Porter.

We plan to choose one to go with da'Rum's recommended "My Father Le Bijou (the jewel) 1922 Petit Robusto" cigar and have at it with reports to our resident experts, namely Sleepy and da'Rum.

Stay tuned...
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Capn Jimbo
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2014 3:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

First up: Dale's Pale Ale, a Pre-Review


The Bear recommended 4 classes of beers to get started, one being a "Pale Ale", and recommending this one. To be fair, as relatively ignorant lovers a beer, our selections were pretty simple. When I was younger I loved spicy Mexican food with a Tecate (with a lime). Moosehead from Canada was nice. College drinking was limited to thin draft beers and Pittsburgh's Rolling Rock.

I later enjoyed many different beers at one of the first bars to feature the beers of the world (they used to brag that if you could name a beer they didn't have, you got a free one. I never was able. And let's not forget good Guinness draft at our local Irish pub.

These days it's Guinness for Sue Sea and Yuengling Black & Tan when the dollars are short. So today we started toward a new understanding.


Oscar Blues Dale's Pale Ale


We found ours at Total W&S in the form of a colorful 15oz can, straight from the refrigerator, and using two iced mugs that we store in the freezer.

The Dale's was poured carefully, straight down the mug, and created a tall, fine and fluffy head that only slowly dropped, thus the pours had to be in intervals. The color was a rich orangy amber, surprising and quite attractive - after all, by the name of the category we were expecting a light yellow American thin beer.

Pale Ale my arse, this was nice! The nose was lovely, what seemed an orangy hoppy, malty lemon bitters, clean and refreshing sensation. The palate was completely consistent, an lightly leathery orange rind, woody with a bit of bite, and leading to a dry and slightly tannic finish.

We'd offer descriptors as pleasant, cleansing, crisp, rich, robust and hearty, touch of bitter and dry. With time in the glass any tiny edges - which weren't bad anyway - smoothed out and the experience only improved.

Bear, great suggestion and a terrific surprise. Considering our complete lack of experience we won't even attempt to score it, but no matter.

Let's leave it at we'd buy this one again...



*******
To Bear: we are very aware that some beer lovers are careful about the glass and temperature, the type and shape of the glass itself, and the pour, even the approach to nosing and tasting. Natch, we don't have a clue... any thoughts?

To other newbies: Bear's link to the Beer Certification Program, is well worth visiting as it lists all of the beer types and describes them nicely which will be appreciated by the crew here, who like such detail. We checked it, but only after our tasting and we're reassured that our palates are still working, lol...
http://www.bjcp.org/styles04/
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Hassouni
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2014 8:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was a beer man before I was a rum or whisky man.

Pretty much all beer can be broken down into lagers and ales, with the former fermented for longer, at colder temperatures, by yeasts active at the bottom of the fermenting tank, and the latter fermented faster, at warmer temperatures, with top-feeding yeast. In general I find ales to be more complex and interesting, while lagers are lighter-tasting and more refreshing. However this isn't a hard and fast rule, and the addition of hops or type of malt used can have a big impact. Also you can have straw-pale ales and jet-black lagers, and color is no indication of richness of flavor. Duvel, a really pale Belgian ale, is a lot richer-tasting to me than something like Köstritzer black lager (which is not a bad beer, mind!)

Here are my favorite styles, grouped more or less by country but in no particular order, with some of my favorites of each style:

GERMANY

Munich Lager, either Helles or Dunkel (light or dark). Malty without being too sweet, some hops, but not bitter. Very easy drinking. Hofbräu is easy to find and a classic, but recently I was turned on to Augustiner Helles, which is fantastic.

Hefeweizen - wheat beer, no hops. Lots of esters and interesting flavors - sort of the Jamaican rum of beer. My favorites are Weihenstephaner and Paulaner, in that order.

Doppelbock - another German lager, but this time dark, very malty indeed, and strong, coming in around 7-9% ABV. The original of this style is Paulaner Salvator, many of the other Bavarian breweries have created similar beers with -ator endings, such as Spaten Optimator and Ayinger Celebrator, both of which are also great. Weihenstephaner Korbinian is another.

CZECH REPUBLIC

Pilsner - Pilsner Urquell is the classic and original example. Malty and hoppy lager, without being excessively bitter - refreshing, and with a bite. Budweiser (the real one, known in much of the world as Budvar, and in the US as Czechvar) is also quite good.

Other Czech lager These aren't Pilsners really, but are more similar to Bavarian lagers, light and dark. My favorites are Kozel and Krušovice. Not as easy to find in the US.

BELGIUM

Where to begin? I'll be leaving out a lot here...

Abbey/Trappist Made or inspired by monks, strong, very malty and often sweet. These come in a few varieties, namely Dubbel, Tripel, and Quadrupel, which are in order, dark and strong-ish, light and stronger, and much darker and even stronger. The classic example of Trappist would be Chimay, which makes all three, but I prefer Rochefort, all of whose 3 beers are world-beaters. Westmalle does a great Tripel, and there's also Tripel Karmeliet, which is justifiably renowned. Leffe is another ubiquitous and decent example.

Secular dark ales - No association with monks at all, but similar beers, I suppose. My all time favorite beer ever is one of these: Gouden Carolus Cuvée van de Keizer, which is brewed on one day a year, the birthday of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Gouden Carolus classic is also great, as is Kasteel Donker, Gulden Draak, and many others. These beers are super-strong by the way, ranging from 9-11% ABV.

Secular golden strong ales The two that spring immediately to mind are Duvel, which is a malty but very dry, very strong (9-ish %) blonde ale, and Delirum Tremens, a fuller-bodied, intensely complex golden ale, often rated as one of the best beers in the world.

Witbier Belgian wheat beer. The original and best is Hoegaarden, found everywhere. This is similar to Hefeweizen, but is a bit lighter bodied and also is brewed with coriander, orange peel, and other spices, known collectively as gruit

Random other Belgian beer that you should try: La Chouffe and McChouffe, strong, weird, intense, spicy beers in light and dark, respectively; Saison Dupont, also weird and strong and complex but very good...it's really hard to go wrong with Belgian beer. I will contradict Bear though and say that Stella is mediocre, and as a lager is not representative of Belgian beer AT ALL. A better alternative would be Palm.

BRITAIN

Bitter - The classic English pub beer. Ideally it should be cask-conditioned and served at a temperature in the low 50s fahrenheit - this is why everyone thinks Britain has warm beer, but really, it comes out best at this temperature. These are ales brewed with a decent hop load, but balanced by the toasty malts they use. They tend to be a deep amber color. Fuller's ESB might be the best known and is fantastic, (ESB stands for Extra Special Bitter, which is a sub-style, but don't worry about that), other good ones include Fuller's London Pride, Shepherd Neame Spitfire, Coniston Bluebird Bitter, Ringwood/Shipyard Old Thumper, Morland Old Speckled Hen, and many others

Porter/Stout Stout is really a type of porter. Bear described them pretty well. Fuller's London Porter is an archetype, and Samuel Smith makes fantastic examples of both kinds, as does Young's. Most English stouts are pretty damn good. Of special mention is Imperial Stout, which was brewed in England for the Tsar's court in Russia. These are very strong, some pushing 10%. Samuel Smith does a good one, but some of the best are American, namely North Coast Old Rasputin and Victory Storm King. Baltika, a Russian brewery, also does a decent one.

Scotch ale imagine a Belgian abbey beer crossed with a bitter. Very intense stuff. Orkney Skullsplitter is a classic, as much for the beer itself as the name and label design.

Other Stuff

"International Lager" - this is generic macro-brewed stuff, often made with adjuncts, without a hell of a lot of character. Stella Artois is a prominent example, as is Heineken, Beck's, Carlsberg, Carling, and almost any beer from a not traditionally beer producing country, such as Kirin, Asahi, and Sapporo from Japan, Cass, Hite and OB from Korea, Qingdao from China, and a whole bunch of African and Latin American stuff. Avoid if better alternatives are available. One exception is Beerlao, from Laos, which is probably the best Asian beer in existence. Both the light and dark are great.

American craft beer - Ha! You're on your own for this one, as these guys have gone berserk, adding hops to everything that moves and inventing new styles every day. Some of it is great. Some is awful. Dogfish Head is my local favorite, and they do everything with a great sense of originality.

For the record I will come out and say I FUCKING HATE THE DOMINANCE OF IPAS IN THE AMERICAN BEER WORLD. Brewers need to lay down the hops for a second, or at least learn a word called "balance."

Glassware You can probably get by with a standard pint glass and then a 12 or so ounce tulip glass. The really strong (in flavor and ABV) beers should go in the goblet, everything else is fine for the pint glass. Obviously you can expand on that, but I'd say start with those two.
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da'rum
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2014 10:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Awesome post Hassouni!

Good job
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Capn Jimbo
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2014 4:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ibid...

Thanks, Hass. I've heard IPA comments similar to yours. Sue Sea said she heard that this reputedly overhopped beers tend to also be higher in alcohol? True?

Right now we use a couple of these Guinness glasses - a promo item given to us at Total Wine who knew we were good customers...


. . . . . . .

I guess you'd call it a compromise between the standard pint, and a tulip, but we'll check out the recycle shops - who carry lots of glasses.

Today's idiotic question: if a pint and a tulip suffice, which is used when and for what? Any reason to chill them or not?
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Hassouni
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2014 5:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Capn Jimbo wrote:
Ibid...

Thanks, Hass. I've heard IPA comments similar to yours. Sue Sea said she heard that this reputedly overhopped beers tend to also be higher in alcohol? True?

Right now we use a couple of these Guinness glasses - a promo item given to us at Total Wine who knew we were good customers...


. . . . . . .

I guess you'd call it a compromise between the standard pint, and a tulip, but we'll check out the recycle shops - who carry lots of glasses.

Today's idiotic question: if a pint and a tulip suffice, which is used when and for what? Any reason to chill them or not?


Nah, those Guinness glasses are basically a standard pint - do they hold 20 oz? If so, that's an Imperial pint.

I'd say use a tulip for anything stronger than 7%, or anything where the flavors are very strong and concentrated - think Imperial stouts, most strong Belgian ales, etc. A Doppelbock could probably get by in a pint glass even if it's around 7 or 8%.

Once you get in to this you'll probably acquire glasses from your favorite breweries - in Belgium each brewery has its own distinctively shaped glass, as do the Bavarian breweries for their hefeweizens* (which also have a distinct glass). However, that's not really necessary, as most of them are either tulip or chalice-shaped (not Hefeweizen glasses though, those are very distinctive) I have, off the top of my head, glasses for:

    Rochefort
    Chimay
    Delirum Tremens
    Gouden Carolus
    Gulden Draak
    Hoegaarden
    Duvel
    Maudite**
    Weihenstephaner Hefe
    Erdinger Hefe (a so-so beer but a cool glass)
    Ringwood Old Thumper Imperial pint glass
    London School of Alcoholics pint glass (if this ever breaks I will be super cross)


I have a couple more but can't remember all of them.

Unless it's a super hot day and you've got a really refreshing beer like a good pilsner or something, I don't see a need to chill the glasses. Lagers are best very cold, but most ales are best slightly (slightly!) warmer than fridge temperature, and stronger ones are best warmer than that. When you get to 8-10% beers, they can really be pretty warm, like maybe mid 50s F/low teens C.

Re: Sue Sea saying extra hoppy beers being higher in alcohol...not necessarily. IPAs are higher than a standard ale, maybe around 6%, but that's not that strong. There is a movement now for creating "Imperial IPAs," which is a stupid, invented term, which just means it's a lot stronger, like an imperial stout. But stuff like Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA comes in around 6.

*If you like hefeweizen or dunkelweizen beers (also called -weisse instead of weizen, one means wheat, the other white), you should probably invest in some appropriate glassware. TW sells basic unbranded hefeweizen glasses, or you could go for your favorite brewery. It's a VERY distinctive, very tall glass, and the beer really tastes and smells best when served from one. Note - in American bars wheat beer is often served with a slice of lemon or orange. I don't know where this started. DO NOT DO THIS. The citrus kills the head and the aroma and that's what wheat beer is all about!

**So in my first post I totally forgot to mention Unibroue, a brewery from Quebec and one of my favorite breweries in North America. In the NA craft beer scene, several breweries operate to brew strictly Belgian style beers. Ommegang and Allagash come to mind and are both good but Unibroue is the best. Their beers La Fin du Monde and Maudite are both fantastic, the former a strong golden ale, and the latter a darker, Dubbel style. They have other good ones too, Trois Pistoles is a super dark ale. Unibroue also brews for Trader Joe's - their house brand Vintage Ale and Strong Golden Ale are Unibroue products, and are fantastic, and at $5 for 750ml, a GREAT value. Unibroue has other limited release beers, 10, 11, 15, etc, and one called Terrible (as in the French slang for "fantastic"). All are superb.
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bearmark
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 24, 2014 5:12 am    Post subject: The Perfect Glass Reply with quote

I've taken to using a Samuel Adams glass that is both comfortable to hold and easy to pour into. This is my general use glass, but I still use a pilsner glass for lagers and a tulip for strong ales. I much prefer it to the standard pint glass above. These tend to run about $15 for a pair. Here's what Boston Beer Co. has to say about their "Perfect Glass."


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Mark Hébert
Rum References: Flor de Caña 18 (Demeraran), The Scarlet Ibis (Trinidadian), R.L. Seale 10 (Barbadian), Appleton Extra (Jamaican), Ron Abuelo 12 (Cuban), Barbancourt 5-Star (Agricole)
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Hassouni
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 24, 2014 9:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I dunno, I like those English pint glasses for sentimental reasons. Plus for real ale/cask ale as served in a proper pub, there isn't much head anyway and the beer isn't supposed to be too cold.

The standard American conical 16 oz pint glasses are pretty meh, though.
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bearmark
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 24, 2014 2:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hassouni wrote:
I dunno, I like those English pint glasses for sentimental reasons. Plus for real ale/cask ale as served in a proper pub, there isn't much head anyway and the beer isn't supposed to be too cold.

The standard American conical 16 oz pint glasses are pretty meh, though.

I was skeptical as well until I tried it out... I'll never switch back now! RateBeer is a great place to get recommendations on the proper glass for a particular beer, but I typically substitute the Sam Adams glass whenever a shaker is called for.

As far as temperature goes, the typical view is that beer should be ice cold, but that doesn't always work. Lagers and most pale ales are good cold, but pale ales tend to reveal more flavors if allowed to slowly warm while drinking. Heavier ales, like porter, stouts, dark ales, etc. will benefit from drinking at just below room temperature and allowing to gradually warm in a similar fashion. For convenience, I start with a refrigerated stout... allow it to sit for a bit, then start to sip on it as it warms. The bold flavors are too muted when below about 50°.

Just as with whiskey (and rum), you should experiment with glasses and temperature in order to find what's comfortable for you.
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Mark Hébert
Rum References: Flor de Caña 18 (Demeraran), The Scarlet Ibis (Trinidadian), R.L. Seale 10 (Barbadian), Appleton Extra (Jamaican), Ron Abuelo 12 (Cuban), Barbancourt 5-Star (Agricole)
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Hassouni
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 24, 2014 6:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Btw Jimbo, I personally prefer beeradvocate.com over ratebeer.com
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bearmark
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 25, 2014 6:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hassouni wrote:
Btw Jimbo, I personally prefer beeradvocate.com over ratebeer.com

Both are good sources of reviews and information about breweries, beers and releases. I personally use both. I only referenced RateBeer because they list glass recommendations and BeerAdvocate doesn't.
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Rum References: Flor de Caña 18 (Demeraran), The Scarlet Ibis (Trinidadian), R.L. Seale 10 (Barbadian), Appleton Extra (Jamaican), Ron Abuelo 12 (Cuban), Barbancourt 5-Star (Agricole)
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2014 11:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

bearmark wrote:
The definitive work on beer styles is the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), but that can be a bit overwhelming. There are a few styles that would be good to start with in order to provide a base from which to branch out. Here are some basic styles and my recommendations for an introduction:
  • Lager - thin, pale, sparkly with a mild bitter finish (e.g. Stella Artois or Yuengling Traditional Lager)
  • Pale Ale - light color, mild carbonation, aromatic with a bitter finish (e.g. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale)
  • Porter - medium body, dark color, mild sweetness and roasted malt flavor (e.g. Anchor Porter or Founders Porter)
  • Stout - heavy body, dark color, mild sweetness, notes of chocolate and/or coffee with roasted malt finish (e.g. Guiness Draught or Deschutes Obsidian Stout)

All of these suggestions are in broad distribution and should be readily available in most areas. These are not your typical mainstream offerings, with the exception of Guiness, and that's intentional... after all, this is about exploring craft beer. From here, we can further explore the variations within each style.

In hindsight, I should've merged porters and stouts, since stouts are just stout porters. The fourth category would've been better represented by European ales, which are pretty much a style unto themselves with quite a bit of variety (Belgian, German, British, etc.), so let's correct that now. Here are some starter recommendations. These will be a bit more expensive (after all, their imported), but well worth the experience (in my opinion):
  • Chimay Blue Grande Réserve
  • Rochefort Trappiste 8
  • Duvel

I would recommend only choosing Duvel if you can't find the other two because it's quite strong, both in flavor and in ABV.

Soon, we'll begin expanding on these basic styles beginning with lagers.
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Rum References: Flor de Caña 18 (Demeraran), The Scarlet Ibis (Trinidadian), R.L. Seale 10 (Barbadian), Appleton Extra (Jamaican), Ron Abuelo 12 (Cuban), Barbancourt 5-Star (Agricole)
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